Author Topic: New to brewing cider and looking for advice  (Read 893 times)

Offline Dsurion

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New to brewing cider and looking for advice
« on: December 14, 2017, 04:10:17 AM »
I am new to brewing, I started brewing ciders about eight months ago. I have not made a batch I really like yet and I'm trying to see what I might be doing wrong. I have read several websites and forums and it seems everyone's methods are a little different and some contradict each other, or just don't explain some of the small but important details.

I started making one gallon batches with organic apple juice from Earthfare, comes in a one galling glass jug so no need to buy a carboy. I have have made about 10 one galling batches. I have been adjusting my method along the way and it has gotten better, but not great. I have two five gallon batches from a local orchard currently in secondary. I will explain what I have done so far and what I plan to do and see if anyone has any advice what might be wrong.

On 11/14, a local orchard filed my sanitized plastic carboys (I use PBW to clean and Star San to sanitize) with unpasteurized, no preservative, cider from their press. (Plastic carboys is what I had and the guy in the local brew store said he has never gotten an off taste from them.) For future batches I will probably use a bucket for primary. Both batches had a SG of 1.054. I decided not to add any additional sugars, such as brown sugar like I had in the past, since it was already a relatively high SG. I added 5 tsp of yeast nutrient in each batch and in one a packet of Lalvin EC-1118 and the other a packet of Lalvin 71B-1122. (Previous batches I had used Nottingham or S-23 but decided to change it to wine yeast based on other's suggestions. I have read arguments for using either beer or wine yeasts.) I put an airlock on top and put them in a basement closet that had temperatures from 65-69.

Six days later, 11/20, both batches were around SG 0.998, I forgot to write it down so I don't remember the exact SG, but it was under 1. Even though I had left some head space both batches bubbled out of the airlock. I racked both batches into new cleaned and sanitized plastic carboys (again didn't have glass, but the one gallon batches were in glass and didn't taste very good so I didn't think that was the factor), leaving behind everything that had settled out. To minimize head space in secondary I added glass marbles until the cider was up to the neck of the jug. I then put the batches back into the same basement closet where they still remain (still 65 in there even though it's 20s outside).

This weekend, 12/16, approximately four weeks in secondary, I plan to bottle. I will rack into a bucket or another carboy to get it off the sentiment, I will add some brown sugar to raise the SG to around 1.002 to 1.004, so I can get some carbonation. I never cold crashed or used potassium metabisulfite to remove the yeast. I have 12 oz bottles up to 1 L flip top bottles to fill. I will then leave the bottled cider in my basement again for at least four weeks. However, one of my thoughts is that I have not been letting my cider sit long enough in the bottles. Should I wait several months before drinking rather than one?

Another issue I thought might effect it was oxidation. I have left little head space in secondary, but while racking into secondary I am holding the siphon tube at the top of the carboy and letting the cider fall all the way to the bottom. Would this aerate the cider and cause oxidation? Also would adding the marbles and letting them fall into the cider to the bottom introduce oxygen into the cider?

Thank you for reading my long post, any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: New to brewing cider and looking for advice
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2017, 01:08:19 PM »
Six days later, 11/20, both batches were around SG 0.998, I forgot to write it down so I don't remember the exact SG, but it was under 1. Even though I had left some head space both batches bubbled out of the airlock.

This looks suspicious to me.  I've never seen a cider go that fast, and usually see very little foam on top.  However I also ferment mine cooler around 55-60 F, and I would recommend you do the same if you can -- draping the fermenter in a wet t-shirt can work wonders in this regard.  I think maybe you are fermenting too hot and it is hurting your cider, that or the nutrients are making the yeast work too fast.

You might be in too much of a hurry.  One month in the fermenter is pretty fast, and there is surely still yeast suspended in the cider.  You can add gelatin to remove most of the yeast, you will probably enjoy the taste of that better too.  Or just be more patient and let it sit for 2 or even 3 or 4 months before bottling.

Oxidation is not an issue for your cider at all.  Using marbles is a good idea, but for such a fast cider, the odds of it going to vinegar in just 4 or 5 weeks is fairly low.

Did you not treat the raw juice with sulfite or pasteurize it at all?  You might have wild yeast in there making it taste not to your liking.  Odds are this is NOT an issue for you, but it is possible.  I like to pasteurize mine at 160 F for 15 minutes, and I'm considering taking this down to 150 F for 20 minutes to reduce cooked flavors.  Then I know that only my chosen yeast is doing the work for me, and not anything wild.  Speaking of which...

My favorite yeast is Cote des Blancs.  It's the best for cider.  There, I've said it, as I've said dozens of times in other threads -- enough said!

Maybe try making cider without the nutrients and see if you like that better.  Lack of nutrients is not a bad thing at all in my experience, and will serve to slow the fermentation, quite possibly resulting in a better product.

Remember this rule of thumb: Low and slow is the way to go.  Keep temperatures cool, skip nutrients, and try to get the fermentation to go as slow as possible instead of as fast as possible.  That's my recipe for a great cider.  One last thing -- I like to rack mine after the first few days or when gravity reaches about 1.020, this removes most of the yeast and helps slow things down even more.  Sometimes I even add gelatin to help bring fermentation to more of a screeching halt if it's moving too fast.  Looks to me like yours moves way too fast for my liking.

Hope this helps.  Implementing just one or two of my suggestions, if not all of them, will hopefully bring some improvements to your cider in future.

Cheers.
Dave

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Offline pete b

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Re: New to brewing cider and looking for advice
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2017, 01:09:42 PM »
It sounds like you have really done your homework and your methods are strong.
You could have reduced oxidation issues by not racking to secondary.
Make sure to use a priming sugar calculator.
I prefer ale yeast after doing some side by side comparison.
Leaves a better mouthfeel IMO. In your case I bet the ec118 will taste dryer and more tart. 71b tends to soften malic acid tartness.
Both will be very dry, which is fine if you like that. I do.
I suggest trying one bottle a month. I find it starts hitting it's stride 6 months out.
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Offline pete b

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Re: New to brewing cider and looking for advice
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2017, 01:11:40 PM »
Just saw Dave's post and agree with his temperature recommendation.
Don't let the bastards cheer you up.

Offline Bob357

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Re: New to brewing cider and looking for advice
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2017, 01:44:00 PM »
First off, what exactly is it that you don't like about the cider you have been making?

As dmtaylor said in his response, I've never seen a cider ferment out that fast either, and I ferment in the mid to high 60s. I also never see much foam on top. Not too sure what nutrient you use, but 5 tsp seems like a lot. I use 1/2 tsp each  DAP and Fermaid K for 5 gallons.

 


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Re: New to brewing cider and looking for advice
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2017, 02:58:15 PM »
If we're citi g personal experience, here's mine....I put on a batch od cider one week ago today.  OG was 1.060 and I used WY1450.  Yesterday the gravity was 1.001.  It had a huge krausen on it.  So there ya go....fermented out in 6 days and lots of foam.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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Offline Steve Ruch

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Re: New to brewing cider and looking for advice
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2017, 04:41:37 PM »
Was the juice a single variety or a blend?
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Re: New to brewing cider and looking for advice
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2017, 04:47:43 PM »
Was the juice a single variety or a blend?

Single, from my crabapple tree.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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Offline Dsurion

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Re: New to brewing cider and looking for advice
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2017, 03:20:32 AM »

This looks suspicious to me.  I've never seen a cider go that fast, and usually see very little foam on top.  However I also ferment mine cooler around 55-60 F, and I would recommend you do the same if you can -- draping the fermenter in a wet t-shirt can work wonders in this regard.  I think maybe you are fermenting too hot and it is hurting your cider, that or the nutrients are making the yeast work too fast.

You might be in too much of a hurry.  One month in the fermenter is pretty fast, and there is surely still yeast suspended in the cider.  You can add gelatin to remove most of the yeast, you will probably enjoy the taste of that better too.  Or just be more patient and let it sit for 2 or even 3 or 4 months before bottling.

I have a heated basement and that is the coolest place I can get with a steady temperature, otherwise it would be a crawl space or garage that will get either too cold or too hot, but maybe the t-shirt could work if you think that is too warm. The first two batches I fermented too long with no nutrients, I was waiting for it to stop bubbling, big mistake. I went five weeks,  they went from 1.062 to 1.002 and 1.054 to 1.000. They were pretty bad, I think too much dead yeast flavor. I then shortened primary to about two weeks for the next several batches. Each batch dropped about .040 in SG, from around 1.054 to around 1.014, with no nutrient. Still didn't taste great, so talking to the local brew store he suggested the nutrient because he thought I might have inefficient fermentation due to lack of nutrients. I have not done anything to remove or stop the yeast, like gelatin or sodium metabisulfite, because I want some so I can have carbonation in the bottles, although maybe I should try still cider.  I have thought I might need a couple more months in secondary.

Did you not treat the raw juice with sulfite or pasteurize it at all?  You might have wild yeast in there making it taste not to your liking.  Odds are this is NOT an issue for you, but it is possible.  I like to pasteurize mine at 160 F for 15 minutes, and I'm considering taking this down to 150 F for 20 minutes to reduce cooked flavors.  Then I know that only my chosen yeast is doing the work for me, and not anything wild.  Speaking of which...

Remember this rule of thumb: Low and slow is the way to go.  Keep temperatures cool, skip nutrients, and try to get the fermentation to go as slow as possible instead of as fast as possible.  That's my recipe for a great cider.  One last thing -- I like to rack mine after the first few days or when gravity reaches about 1.020, this removes most of the yeast and helps slow things down even more.  Sometimes I even add gelatin to help bring fermentation to more of a screeching halt if it's moving too fast.  Looks to me like yours moves way too fast for my liking.

This is the first batch of unpasteurized cider I have done, all previous batches were pasteurized, it could be a factor in this one but not previous ones. What do you mean by rack after the first few days? First few days of primary or from a secondary to a tertiary once I hit 1.020?

First off, what exactly is it that you don't like about the cider you have been making?

As dmtaylor said in his response, I've never seen a cider ferment out that fast either, and I ferment in the mid to high 60s. I also never see much foam on top. Not too sure what nutrient you use, but 5 tsp seems like a lot. I use 1/2 tsp each  DAP and Fermaid K for 5 gallons.

Hard to explain what I don't like, I don't have the most sophisticated pallet, it's just not smooth especially in the end it has a harsh bite to it that's not pleasant. It's drinkable but not completely enjoyable. I am using Diammonium Phosphate from LD Carson, I used the high suggestion of 1 tsp per gallon instead of 1/2 tsp per gallon. Previous batches I used the 1/2 tsp, they were some of my best, but that's relative. When the guy at the brew store suggested nutrient he did say my cider would finish primary in a week or less, he said he aims for 7 to 10 days in primary. He has over 20 years of brewing experience, with pretty much all types of fermentables, unfortunately he recently retired and closed his shop so I can't speak with him anymore.

I tried to add a pic of one of my batches but I can't seem to get it to load from either imgur or photobucket, not sure if there is a size issue or something else.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2017, 03:45:56 AM by Dsurion »

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: New to brewing cider and looking for advice
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2017, 03:46:48 AM »
I have not done anything to remove or stop the yeast, like gelatin or sodium metabisulfite, because I want some so I can have carbonation in the bottles...

What do you mean by rack after the first few days? First few days of primary or from a secondary to a tertiary once I hit 1.020?

With gelatin, you'll still get natural carbonation in the bottles.  It will just take a month or two.  And if you add a little fresh yeast at bottling, carbonation definitely will not be a problem.

Rack to secondary after the first few days, and consider racking again to a tertiary several days later if fermentation continues moving too fast.
Dave

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Offline Dsurion

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Re: New to brewing cider and looking for advice
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2017, 01:46:13 AM »
With gelatin, you'll still get natural carbonation in the bottles.  It will just take a month or two.  And if you add a little fresh yeast at bottling, carbonation definitely will not be a problem.

Rack to secondary after the first few days, and consider racking again to a tertiary several days later if fermentation continues moving too fast.

Assuming you start around 1.055 to 1.065, that seems like a standard range I have seen, you ferment for 3 to 4 days until it is down to about 1.020. Then rack to straight to secondary or do you add some gelatin prior to racking? Or do you add the gelatin part way through secondary to nearly stop all fermentation when your SG hits the area you want it? Do you leave it in secondary for up to 3 to 4 month, only going to tertiary if you feel it is still fermenting too fast?

Seems like if you go from that starting SG to 1.020 in a few days that it is fermenting just as fast as mine. If you left it another 3 to for days for a total of 7 then I would think you would end around 1.000.

What would be the difference between letting it sit in secondary, and tertiary if necessary, for 2 months and in the bottles for 4 month vs in secondary for 4 months and in bottles for 2 months? You could adjust that with any numbers but having the total time be 6 month of sitting prior to drinking. Is there a different process that is occurring in secondary, and tertiary, than is occurring in the bottle, other than it will only carbonate in the bottles?

Here is a picture of one of current brews, you can see the sediment sitting on the marbles. Will sitting on the sediment too long give it any off flavors? (I finally got the picture to work once I posted from my computer instead of my tablet.)


Offline dmtaylor

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Re: New to brewing cider and looking for advice
« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2017, 01:39:05 PM »
My cider, fermented at about 55 to 60 F, takes more like 10 or 12 days probably to reach 1.020 or so, not just 3 or 4 days.  I also don't use any yeast nutrients, which probably makes it move slower compared to if I did use nutrients.  So my fermentation is not going as fast as yours.

I rack to secondary when specific gravity is probably around 1.025-1.030.  Then the cider ferments all the more slowly down towards 1.020 or 1.015 or wherever I set my goal.  It takes several weeks to get there.  I add gelatin only if it is moving too fast.  Otherwise I often just refrigerate at about 35-40 F, where it will continue to ferment for about 3 months or so unless I really want to clear things up with gelatin, where it grinds almost to a halt.

Letting the cider sit in secondary or tertiary for a shorter time might result in more sludge in the bottoms of the bottles.  I prefer to keep more of that out of the finished cider.  And I'm lazy.  Eventually when I bottle, I usually add just a few grains of fresh dry yeast (Cote des Blancs) to ensure I will get some carbonation.  That, or just plan to enjoy it flat & uncarbonated.

If I really crammed all the timing into the shortest period possible, I could probably get a cider done in just 10 weeks from orchard to glass.  But I'm never in that much of a hurry.  I think I could do 10 weeks.  6 months isn't necessary for good cider.  But, it doesn't hurt.

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Offline Dsurion

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Re: New to brewing cider and looking for advice
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2017, 04:06:41 AM »
Thank you for the info. I think with the next batch I will try to cut down the primary time so that I don't ferment almost all the sugar out like I have been. So you refrigerate for three months while it's still fermenting in the jug? I have not seen that before,  I've seen cold crashing to remove the yeast but that's not that long. I don't have anywhere I can refrigerate an entire batch like you do, I can try to get it cooler but I don't have many choices for that. At what SG do you bottle at? I have bottled at around 1.012 before and it was too carbonated, it was difficult to pour. I got better results around 1.004. Once I bottle I leave the bottles in the same closet as the one I brewed in, should I not be leaving it out like that? (Again, couldn't refrigerate that much at once if I wanted to.)

I do have some Cote des Blancs in my fridge, it was suggested by someone, maybe by you in one of your older posts I read on another forum. I also have S-23, S-04, US-5 and premier cuvee (I have used the cuvee  in a mead and a kombucha cider already), that I will try at some point.

Offline Aksarben

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Re: New to brewing cider and looking for advice
« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2018, 03:16:01 AM »
My 2 cents.  Last year we fermented (not brewed) around 370,000 gallons of cider, and even now have cider in the fermenters or in the process of cleaning up or getting ready to ship out.  Just wanted to point that out to let you know where I get my experience.

Never use 71-B yeast.  It metabolizes Malic acid to some degree and you want that to keep the cider crisp.
Use SO2  (KMBS aka as Sulfur Dioxide aka campden tablets).  We add appx 40 ppm as juice.  Here is why.   It not only kills and stuns organisms but is an anti oxidant.  Apple juice is notorious for having higher pH than we like  (around 3.70 - 3.85 )  so we add malic acid to raise the acid and lower the pH.  Our ciders when bottled are around pH of 3.40 and acids in the 0.600 range.

I work with Brix, so if you have a Brix of 11.5 or better is alright.  13 is ideal.  Lower than 11.5 add just a touch of cane or white sugar.  We don't use brown sugar as it adds molasses and we are just using it in the end to sweeten mostly.  You should see our sugar bill!!

Keep up the SO2 when you rack.  USE CO2 in the receiving vessel before you rack the wine into it, off the yeast sediment.  You don't have to fill the secondary full  IF     IF   you add CO2 to the top of the headspace and close tight.  Each week add a fresh amount  of CO2 for 2-3 weeks.  It should settle out and add sugar at a rate you want if you are looking to bottle and use the sugar to carbonate.  Let  it finish out well in the primary.  Once it starts it should be done in 5-8 days.  We use DV-10 yeast   (buy it in 10kg boxes)  :) 

We add sugar, sorbate and apple juice concentrate to our cider before bottling.... However, we artificially carbonate in a brite tank  (some 950 gallons). and we can up our cider. 

Keep the cider clean.  Keep up enough Free SO2 in the 30ppm to 40 ppm range and you will lessen your oxidation and it won't affect your secondary.

We also use Yeast Nutrient,  and DAP in the onset before fermentation   3.5 lbs / 1000 gallon of Superfood (you can also use Fermaid O or Fermaid K)   and the DAP at 1.5 lb/ M    Apple juice is sort of deficient in nutrients for yeast, and this makes the fermentation strong.   We also use a Pectic Enzyme to help clear the juice and resulting cider.

www.fennvalley.com 

Hope some of this helps.
Vernon

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Fennville, MI

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